The little online bird has hatched a new breed of tourist - a British writer who was sponsored, ferried, and housed and fed during a month-long tour around the world - all by tweeters. Meet the 'Twitchhiker'
Believe it or not, a British freelance writer has tweeted his way round the globe for free.
34-year-old Paul Smith came up with the idea of using micro-blogging site ‘Twitter’ to wangle free travel around the world while suffering post-holiday blues after spending his honeymoon in New York.
Surrendering himself to the goodwill of the 80 million or so tweeters - he would appeal to them to provide transport and accommodation, ‘The Sun’ reported.
Mr. Paul’s dream was a 30-day journey that would take him to Campbell Island, some 200 miles off coast of New Zealand - and slap bang on the other side of the world. His wife Jane backed him and told him to put the dates on the calendar.
“A challenge had begun to formulate in my mind and I knew I’d have to run with it. As a freelance writer, I don’t work nine to five and I suspected somebody else would pull off a similar stunt if I didn’t do it first,” he said.
Mr. Paul posted his aims on Twitter some 28 days before he wanted to leave but, at first, there was little interest. That changed when Stephen Fry found out about him and mentioned him to his many followers.
Soon a tweeter called Leanne offered him ferry ticket from Newcastle to Amsterdam. From Dutch capital, Paul caught the train to Paris courtesy of two French tweeters. There, he was given a free bed at a hostel before taking the train to Saarbrucken, where a German helper, Andrea Juchem, picked him up and drove him to Frankfurt.
Crossing the Atlantic happened sooner than Mr. Paul expected, thanks to tweeter Owen, who bought him a one-way ticket to New York from Frankfurt with Air Miles. In the Big Apple, a Yorkshireman called Mark offered Mr. Paul the spare bed in his hotel room.
During Mr. Paul’s stint in America he went on to stay with Twitter users in a string of big cities, including Washington DC, Chicago and San Francisco, travelling between them by air, train and car courtesy of other generous tweeters.
While in Austin, Texas, he was interviewed for the Good Morning America TV breakfast show. From there he flew to San Francisco, thanks to a Zurich businessman, then on by car to Los Angeles.
And, on day 23, Air New Zealand bosses laid on a free flight from Los Angeles to Auckland. After catching a ferry to South Island, Paul drove to its tip with a tweeter Smiley and sailed to Stewart Island.
From there Mr. Paul hoped a kindly trawler captain would take him as far as Campbell Island - the destination he had set his sights on at the start. Getting home proved simple when Air New Zealand offered him another flight back to U.K.
Mr. Paul, who has now written a book about his experience, Twitchhiker, said: “People were bending over backwards to help me and I did not have a negative experience with anyone. The trip proved to me there’s a lot of good in the world.”